Catholics who become Protestants
When Catholics leave the practice of the Catholic Faith, they don't take these with them!
An April 2009 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked former Catholics why they left the church. Reasons for those who became Protestants included:
- Spiritual needs not being met: 71 percent
- Found denomination they liked more: 70 percent
- Just gradually drifted away: 54 percent
- Stopped believing in the church's teachings: 50 percent
- Married someone of a different faith: 29 percent
- Unhappy with teachings on abortion and homosexuality: 23 percent
- Unhappy with teachings on divorce, remarriage: 23 percent
- Clergy sex abuse scandal: 21 percent
- Unhappy with teachings on birth control: 16 percent
I think this survey leaves out those who leave the Catholic Church and become "nones" meaning they don't join any other Christian denomination or other religion.
But what is helpful to me is to correct my own misconceptions about why people leave. The majority don't leave over the Church's moral teachings, even the more controversial ones, like birth control, homosexuality and same sex marriage, and the ordination of women.
The majority leave because their spiritual needs are not being met and they find a denomination they like more. The next largest group is the one that simply just drifts away.
If one's spiritual needs aren't being met, which in my mind would be the salvation of one's soul, then have our Catholic parishes emphasized the need for the Sacrament of Penance and made clear through the celebration of the Mass and the devotions which flow from it that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, is truly present through the celebration of Mass and in the most powerful sign of His Real Presence, in the actual bread and wine, that become His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity? It seems to me that if Catholics don't believe this and the way the Mass is celebrated doesn't really point to this powerful belief, then why stay a Catholic? Why not join a denomination whose primary "sacrament" is "Fellowship" and "warm fuzzies?"
In addition to making the celebration of the Mass a powerful sign of the awesome Real Presence of Jesus Christ, have parishes made clear the need for proper reverence and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle? To this question, we must also add another, just where is the tabernacle in the Church? Does its placement allow for the proper modeling of the respect and reverence that is due the Most Blessed Sacrament by genuflecting before our Lord's reserved Sacramental Real Presence and kneeling before our Lord in prayer?
In my previous assignment and now here at St. Joseph Church, the tabernacle is dead center. People genuflect when they walk in front of it and others witness this and know they should do the same. At the beginning of Mass and at the end of Mass, the priest and ministers genuflect before our Lord in the tabernacle. The entire congregation for Mass witnesses this.
In those churches where the tabernacle is hidden in a chapel away from the main church or placed off to the distant side where public acts of reverence are seldom seen by the entire congregation, it is no wonder that the majority of Catholics in those parishes are clueless about the reverence due the reserved Most Blessed Sacrament and the private prayers for spiritual needs that can be offered before our Lord's sacramental presence.
For the first two top reasons why Catholics leave the antidote is the proper and reverent celebration of the Mass, pulling out all stops at the main liturgy of Sunday and striving to make the parish hospitable and friendly, without using the Mass to accomplish the horizontal dimension of our relationship to one another. By this I mean, friendliness outside the Church and upon entering, but silence maintained in the nave of the Church for private prayer; opportunities for fellowship following Mass, at parish suppers and small group gatherings.
Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass must be rediscovered as well as the prominent display of the tabernacle in the sanctuary.
Finally, and flowing from this, must be a powerful devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If a Catholic goes to a well celebrated and awesomely reverent Mass every Sunday, goes to confession regularly is praying before and offering adoration to the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle and is praying the Holy Rosary daily, I doubt they will leave the Church. Their spiritual needs are being met! They are being saved!
Isn't salvation the whole reason for the Incarnation, birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, giving of the Holy Spirit and expected return of Jesus Christ? Is there some other reason for the Christ event that trumps the actual salvation event for all humanity and all of creation?